A swimsuit competition is a beauty contest in which people wearing swimsuits compete against each other for prizes including trophies and money. Many showcase women wearing minimal bikinis. Swimsuit competitions may be organized or sponsored by companies for marketing purposes like NOPI's annual "Hot Import Nights" bikini contest, which is held in conjunction with the import car-show in Atlanta, Georgia, and the annual Hooter's bikini competition. Competitions are held in bars and nightclubs, during intermissions of boxing or wrestling matches, and at car shows. Bodybuilding competitions may also feature bikini contest segments.
Contestants can typically wear any variety of bikini - even the microkini - as long as their nipples and labia remain covered, though the organizers of each competition are free to determine standards of "dress" and nudity (as long as all laws and ordinances are respected). One or two principle announcers will present the competition to the audience, and a panel of at least three judges. Winning over the crowd is of principal importance for most competitors, as results can be heavily influenced by audience input, while in some cases formal judges are absent entirely and the winner is decided by popular vote.
Despite their popularity and women's voluntary participation, swimsuit competitions—especially bikini contests—are subject to controversy. Critics of beauty contests argue that such contests reinforce the idea that girls and women are primarily valued for their physical appearance, and that this puts tremendous pressure on women to conform to conventional beauty standards by spending time and money on fashion, cosmetics, hair styling and even cosmetic surgery. They claim that this pursuit of physical beauty even encourages some women to diet to the point of harming themselves.
Miss World contest
In 1951, the first Miss World contest, originally the Festival Bikini Contest, was organized by Eric Morley as a mid-century advertisement for swimwear at the Festival of Britain. The press welcomed the spectacle and referred to it as Miss World, and Morley registered the name as a trademark. When the winner Kiki Håkansson from Sweden was crowned in a bikini, countries with religious traditions threatened to withdraw delegates. The bikinis were outlawed and evening gowns introduced instead. Håkansson remains the only Miss World crowned in a bikini, a crowning that was condemned by the Pope. The bikini was banned from Miss World beauty pageants after the controversy.
Bikinis reappeared in later contests amid additional controversy. In the 1970s and 1980s the contest was regularly picketed by feminist protestors. The pageant disappeared for a while and in 1996, when the Miss World contest was held in Bangalore, India, dozens of Indian groups who opposed the event claimed that the contest degraded women by featuring them in bikinis. Social activist Subhashini Ali commented, "It's not an IQ test. Neither is it a charity show. It's a beauty contest in which these things have been added on as sops." The protests were so intense that the organizers were finally compelled to shift the venue of the "Swimsuit Round" to Seychelles. Countering these claims, the contest organizer says that the organization has raised ₤300 million for charity in many of the countries where it operates since 2000.
In 2013, the Miss World event is to be hosted by Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country. The country's top Muslim clerical body, the Indonesian Ulema Council, suggested that the event should be cancelled because it promotes "hedonism, materialism, and consumerism," and is nothing but "an excuse to show women's body parts that should remain covered." The organizers later announced that the bikini would be replaced by one-piece swimsuits and even sarongs, traditional beachwear on the resort island of Bali. Pageant Chairwoman Julia Morley explained, "I do not want to upset or get anyone in a situation where we are being disrespectful."
Dr. Brooke Magnanti argued that the decision to yield to religious fundamentalists was not a victory for feminism:
While no great fan of pageants there's something about this that rubs the wrong way. For some time it's been clear that the interests and tactics of certain types of feminism and certain types of religious fundamentalism not only converge, but seem to complement each other.
Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, a competitor to the Miss World contest, was delighted to learn of the rival organization's decision. He told Fox TV, "Well, I own Miss Universe, so I'm actually very happy about it—because if [Miss World] doesn't have bikinis their ratings go right down the tubes."
Miss Earth contest
Vida Samadzai was the 2003 Afghani contestant for the Miss Earth title. She was severely condemned by the both Afghan authorities and community for seeking the title. Samadzai was born in Afghanistan but raised in the United States. She was living in India at the time of the contest. The Afghan Supreme Court banned swimsuit contests and said that appearing naked in beauty contests is completely un-Islamic, and is against Afghan tradition, human honour and dignity. Habiba Sarabi, the Afghan women affairs minister, said Samadzai's semi-naked appearance "is not women's freedom butdon my opinion is to entertain men". Afghanistan's embassy in Washington DC declared that claims by Afghan American Samadzai to represent Afghanistan is baseless. Samadzai, the second woman to be crowned Miss Afghanistan after Zohra Daoud's crowning in 1972, received a number of death threats and had to be under the protection of FBI for three months. She said she was a bit uncomfortable wearing the "70s style red bikini" and was aware of the risks involved.
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